Finding Financial Help: What to Do If Your Family is in Peril

( – When do things start to feel especially financially dire for most American families? When they can’t afford the basics, like shelter, food, clothing, transportation to and from work, and medical care. Families experiencing financial stress often suffer from having greater expenses than their income, job loss in a difficult economy, and conflicting ideals about how to spend and save.

Once your family starts to experience financial difficulty, it’s hard to get out of that rut. Self-proclaimed experts will tell you there’s some kind of secret to financial success you’re just not accessing. They’ll promise it’s about mentality or simply buying fewer lattes — when, in fact, many financial situations, even in families with employed persons — are due to larger issues like the high cost of healthcare, low wages, and skyrocketing rent and general inflation. These are not factors you or any member of your family can control.

What happens when you get to this point? You can seek financial assistance and other forms of aid from the federal government. There are many types of assistance available, which makes the sea of programs a bit difficult to navigate without help, but if you’re having major issues staying housed or affording meals, you should consider applying for help. Here are the main programs to investigate:

Section 8 Program: For Housing Assistance

If you need help affording shelter, consider the popular Section 8 program. The goal of Section 8 is to ensure every American has sanitary, safe, affordable housing. Depending on your needs and the size of your family, Section 8 may help you get into an apartment, townhome, or a single-family dwelling.

Section 8 is particularly helpful for those in need who want to relocate to be near family, or for a new financial opportunity. You can apply to use Section 8 just about anywhere in the United States. When you enter the Section 8 program, you get put on a prioritized waiting list. Once it’s your turn to receive benefits, you’ll have to find a landlord who will accept the Section 8 Voucher. However, it’s in a landlord’s best interest to accept the vouchers as the vouchers represent the federal government guaranteeing the majority of your rent.

The Section application will consider four main factors for you and/or your family: income, household size, citizenship status, and whether you have a history of eviction. This program is for low-income families, and certain people (such as families with children, or households with disabled family members). If you want to qualify for the program, your household’s income can’t be more than 30 percent of the average family income for that area.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: For Food Assistance

Have you ever heard of food stamps? That program is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This is the most popular government aid food benefit that the federal government offers. Those who qualify get an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card which functions similarly to a debit card. Each month it is reloaded with your benefit and you can use it to buy food at approved stores.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: For Stability

Families in crisis should consider Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. Tanf is funded by states and it provides two to five years of financial assistance, help with finding jobs, and more. For families that are financially disadvantaged, the goal is to help them achieve financial independence without letting them fall into further crises.

TANF is important because of its flexibility: qualifying families can use it for housing, food, heating and cooling costs, job training, and child care. Each state administers this program, though it’s federally funded.

If you and your family are in crisis, it’s surely a challenging time. Families in need deserve support, and with these three programs and other federal aid opportunities, you can succeed and move forward towards financial independence and a better future.

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